"Exhibition on the picture".

Vladimir Levashov

In Vladimir Logutov's project “Meetings”, it is the viewer who is at the center of attention. The type, the character and the condition of the system that is titled the artistic work is to a large extent dependent on him. It is the viewer who establishes where real space ends and where the fictive space of the image begins. It is the viewer (including the artist, as an active viewer) who serves as guarantor for its borders. And in moving the figure of the viewer through that border, Logutov does, not only inversively but also extremely economically, what art previously did, breaking down its own borders and allowing the public into its scope.

For Logutov, it's very important where the viewer is – within or without, from where and to where he is looking, where he draws the line between the material and the aesthetic. It is this line that is the site of their meetings. Thus, the project's title - “Meetings” - is specifically about the localization of the borders of the image and, consequently, the figure of the viewer. Of the subject of sight, attention and vision that influences the object being observed even to the extent of its complete transformation.

The origins of the “Meetings” project can be traced all the way back to 2007, when works with the shadows of viewers and other objects of the physical world appear on neutral backgrounds. One could say that this is a metaphor for the beginning of beginnings: the graphic space is empty and what first enters into it from the external reality is not things, it is just the shadows that they cast.

Later, this version becomes more complex: the neutral plane transforms into a shining screen, it becomes an abstract or figurative image, the figures of the viewers appear before it, coming into contact with the graphic world on the other side of the looking glass. Similarly, on occasion these figures themselves form a separate layer of the image, on top of which lie the runs and spatters of paint. The fictive space becomes multi-layered, confusing the viewer's gaze to the outermost limit.

Logutov also has another, slightly different type of work: his group of pictures from 2011 looks like illustrations with inscriptions (here, incidentally, the last of the full selection of elements in his artistic language appears for the first time – text) whilst in fact being sketches of installations that were never created. For example, “Meeting with gold dust” or “Meeting with drops of blood.” And if, in the variety of Logutov's works, right from the initial depiction of shadows on a flat plane, we have been dealing, as it were, with the self-generation (exposition) of the space within the image, then in the illustrations-sketches the device of the material, the external, the installation space being turned into an internal, easel-graphic space is demonstrated. At the same time, in both cases, Logutov lucidly demonstrates to us that in the space “within the picture” you can do everything that is done within the standard “white cube.” And even that the differences in these spaces are not fundamental.

From this we should reach the conclusion that the artist's easel works function in a way that differs from that of the traditional graphic arts. His easel painting converts the latest installation and curated type of project into the format of a figurative image: as the inscriptions in one of Logutov's works tell us, he doesn't have “a painting at an exhibition”, he has “an exhibition on a painting.” And when the exhibition is set up right “on the picture”, that means that the author has returned the freedom to embody his own concepts to himself, removing the limits of sovereignty placed on the artist, as conditioned by the conventions of the contemporary art industry. Thus, an inversive form arises which we might term the project image. And for this project image, Logutov uses an aggregate of interlinked approaches of which the most important are: the arrangement of indeterminately localized spaces into one another; manipulations carried out with the figures of viewers and textual injections.

Some of the artist's recent watercolors again demonstrate to us the act of birth of the space of an “in-picture exhibition.” But from the other side, as it were: not with the aid of the depiction of the viewers or their shadows, but with the aid of the images of elementary exposition objects. These watercolors are, as it were, quasi-abstract. “Feeling” them out, our gaze passes over a series of flat color shadings until, finally, it comes up against a special, key site where the combination of primings and the white backgrounds suddenly turns into a depiction of an object in volume that had hitherto appeared to be a flat plane. And now, taking in the watercolor in its entirety with our gaze, we can no longer get rid of the impression that we are seeing in it a white canvas (or, at least, a fragment of it) given in perspective with a slightly darker butt-end. In other cases it may not be a white picture rectangle, but like the depiction of an exhibition “white cube” or auditorium with a shining screen. Nevertheless, confidence in the precision of such an image again remains with us only up until the point when we find that key site where what was imagined to be one of the details turns out to be a flat priming over an imaginary object, eliminating the three-dimensionality and returning the figurative illusion to an abstract surface.

The figures of the viewers and the inscriptions can also operate in the roles of analogous forms-switches. The spaces depicted by Logutov are deeply expositional, directly configured for the viewer's contemplation: this is the only possible occupation for the human staffage placed within them. For this reason, we viewers, contemplating the artist's pictures from without, easily identify ourselves with the depicted viewer-figures. In their embodiments, as it were, we enter the image, acquiring-sensing it as conditional-physical, as real. Real only in the sense that a strictly exhibitionary, expositional, conventional space can be.

The same happens with the texts. Finding themselves combined with the neutral-white surfaces of “pictures” within the image, they give them the appearance of conceptual objects. That, at least, is the way they appear to us as in-picture viewers. But if we desist from identifying with our avatars, as it were jumping into our usual space, separating off the text from its conventional bonding with the representational picture on the representational wall, it immediately finds itself in the foreground plane of the entire image, and now relates to it as a whole. And the image, in turn, stops appearing to be the physical space that surrounds, locking itself into its own virtuality.

And only now, convinced of the inter-negotiability and, consequently, the virtual indistinguishability of the “real” from the “fictive” within the expositional-graphic, we suddenly discover that Logutov's declaration - “any fragment of reality can take on the role of a piece of art” - has taken on a new meaning, becoming a key to his entire project. We must decide where to map out the border. We can do it again and again. Perhaps it is in this endless game of reality-imaginary that the real message of the project “Meetings”, Vladimir Logutov's most captivating proposal to his real viewers. 

© Vladimir Logutov